Demons: a sonnet

This week from the Briefing archive, it’s a poem: one of Tony Morphett’s superb little ‘Sonnets from Mark’s Gospel’ that featured in Briefings 20-26, way back in 1989:


You stepped from the carpenter’s shop and the demons knew you,
As you brushed chips from your work clothes in the gesture
You once used after finishing creation.
Through you, matter itself was made, the very texture
Of space and time. Thirty years before,
You had entered your own work, lain in the womb
Of that anonymous virgin, taken the war
To the enemy. Victory will fill your empty tomb.

But that’s three years away, and it is now,
As you move from the bench to your real work, they see
You as you were and as you are. They cry:
“Here on earth the one we would not bow
To in heaven pursues us. Let us be,
Here among our toys, you Son of the Most High!”

One thought on “Demons: a sonnet

  1. For readers in the USA, Canada, England, etc, as well as for younger readers, it may interest you to know that Tony Morphett is one of Australia’s leading script writers.

    Before that, he was a journalist with the ABC (Australia’s national broadcaster) and Sydney’s Daily Telegraph.

    He’s written scripts for over 50 shows including Blue Heelers, Water Rats, The Flying Doctors, A Country Practice, and The Sullivans.

    In a book published in 1985, he explained how a few years earlier he’d had an experience which—against all his inclinations—made him think that Jesus really might be God in the flesh. He writes…

    I didn’t need any of this. I had it made. People were paying me obscene amounts of money for entertaining them. I kept winning little statuettes at industry award nights … I didn’t need any of this “God stuff”.

    But I’d been trained as a reporter and I had always checked my facts, except on this particular question. So I went to the original documents—to their English translations—to check out this crazy idea that had been planted in my head without wanting it.

    In the twenty years prior to this happening I’d written a lot of words myself. I’d worn out two typewriters, written three novels, four or five stage plays, I’d worked as a reporter, a current affairs interviewer and documentary writer for ten years, and for the immediately preceding seven years had written television drama for a living. I knew documentary, I knew reporting, and—and this is important—I knew the sort of fiction which is carefully engineered to seem like real life. That’s what most television drama is. Certain Woman, The Sullivans, and other series like those aim for the appearance of reality, of naturalness.

    Fiction and reporting have different tastes. Fiction is shaped toward an end; reporting has loose edges, loose ends, bits trailing off into past and present and future. So I went to the Gospels to check my facts. In the house we happened to have a Gideon Bible I had stolen from a motel in Brisbane. I started to read the Gospels, and I found to my horror that I was reading documentary, reading reporting, reading history.

    … I read the Gospels probably with half an eye to disproving this new belief—I wanted to get back to normal as I would have called it. And I couldn’t. The documents rang true to the odd assortment of skills and talents I’d somehow acquired over the years.

    They still ring true. I have read much more since. And I’ve found the scholarship and wisdom of other men that indeed these documents are what they told me they were. They’re very good historical documents indeed; better than anything else we’ve got from the ancient world.

    [Source: Tony Morphett, A Hole in my Ceiling, Hodder & Stoughton, 1985, pp 24-25.]

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